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Dec 26

Lenawee County is Investing in Justice through Enhanced Treatment Court

Posted on December 26, 2018 at 9:53 AM by Jennifer Ambrose

Imagine finding yourself in jail, not knowing how you got there and struggling with confusion and hopelessness.  You don’t understand what is going on.  You may not know how you got there.

For those struggling with mental illness, this is not an imaginary story. It’s reality.

Over 44 million Americans suffer from a mental illness and many have trouble accessing care due to a shortage of care professionals.  Poverty inflicts additional damage upon those that are already ill.  Our jails are full of those that suffer – in some counties up to 50% of inmates have a mental health condition.  Mental illness is not a crime and Lenawee County is attempting to change the paradigm. 

True Justice for All
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Lenawee County has three specialty, or problem-solving courts.  These special court programs are designed to address the underlying problems facing offenders and are focused on rehabilitation instead of incarceration.  Sobriety Court, Drug Court, and Enhanced Treatment Court save the county countless dollars every year by reducing reoffenders.

The Enhanced Treatment Court program, sometimes called Mental Health Court, was launched in late 2016.  Participants must qualify to participate in the program but in doing so they have the opportunity to turn their lives around.

“This program benefits the participants by offering them mental health and substance abuse treatment instead of jail time,” explained Heather Brown, Certified Peer Support Specialist and Recovery Coach.  “Once our participants tap into the resources that are provided for them, they realize they’re not alone.”

One is the Loneliest Number

Isolation and mental illness often work hand in hand and creates a vicious cycle that is hard to break.  Mental Health Court seeks to break that cycle.  “Our goal is that participants are getting connected and engaging in the community,” explained Ashley Boehlke, Probation officer and Specialty Courts Coordinator.

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Our community benefits the most when all of its members are healthy, productive, and functioning members of society.  “If our community didn’t have an Enhanced Treatment Court for mental health services, we would have a lot of defendants ‘slip through the cracks’ so to speak,” elaborated Boehlke. “There would be more people that spend time in jail and more that don’t get connected with mental health treatment while they’re on probation.”

“This program benefits our community by really focusing on the person as a whole and helping them become functioning members of society,” explained Brown.

Community Importance

With the closing of an in-patient psychiatric unit at Herrick Hospital last year, this program is even more essential for our county. It is difficult to get connected to the appropriate services for mental health, especially in an emergency situation, which may often lead an individual to committing a crime.

“Since the in-patient psych unit shut down in Lenawee County we have – as a community not, just our program – all seen a big need for people to be able to get in-patient services,” said Boehlke. “We hope that getting the participants connected with out-patient services in a much quicker way will help alleviate some of that need.”

Access to immediate, emergency, local mental health care continues to be a concern for many citizens in Lenawee County.  At a recent town hall event, over 150 residents attended to brainstorm ways to help solve the problem.  The Mental Health Court program is just one piece of a larger puzzle in the county and Lenawee County officials stress its importance now, more than ever.

“We are listening to our citizens and their concerns,” stated David Stimpson, Lenawee County Board of Commissioners Chair.  “We remain committed to the Enhanced Treatment Court program as one community resource for mental health treatment.  Our investment in this program is an investment in our citizens and enhances our community.”

Intensive Rehabilitation Program

The 12-24 month program includes a customized treatment plan for each participant.  Within seven days participants are connected to treatment providers and they are assigned a specialist that is their resource throughout their time in the program. They also participate in individual and group therapy, have access to appropriate medication, and are required to attend ongoing meetings with the court system. 

“We also provide transportation to and from appointments for our participants,” explained Brown. “It helps them to really engage with their treatment and gives us more face-to-face time to work on their coping skills.”

A Successful Program Leads to a Successful Lenawee

Since its launch in 2016, the program has seen great success. 

  • 100% of graduates have maintained stable housing at least 90 days prior to graduation
  • The program has an 85% retention rate (The state of Michigan’s goal for the same program is 60%)
  • 90% of the participants compliant with the program (The state of Michigan’s goal is only 80%).

The program has seven graduates, with one participant nearing graduation shortly.  Boehkle and Brown are very proud of the program that they help run on a daily basis as well as their graduates. 


“This program benefits our community by really focusing on the person as a whole and helping them become functioning members of society,” explained Brown. 

For more information about Mental Health Court, visit us online or contact the District Court at 517-264-4675.